Binay gets second invite to hearing
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee is inviting Vice President Jejomar Binay anew to its hearing on the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building so he could respond to the serious charges of corruption leveled against him, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said Saturday.
The subcommittee will send out the invitation to Binay on Monday for its Oct. 30 hearing to give him plenty of time to decide whether to attend or not. It will hold an earlier hearing on Oct. 22, Pimentel said.
“This is his second chance. Maybe he will have a change of heart, or a change of mind because the charges against him have piled up. Maybe he will want to answer these,” the subcommittee chair said in an interview by phone.
So far, Binay has been adamant about skipping the inquiry that he described as a mere forum to vilify him ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.
Pimentel, however, said the subcommittee would respect Binay’s decision should he decline the second invitation.
“No hard feelings, no negative implications, nothing,” he said.
Binay had declined the first invitation to respond to former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado’s allegations that he ordered the rigging of public biddings for the city’s infrastructure projects so his favored contractors would win, and pocketed kickbacks from such projects.
On the day of the hearing, Binay opted to spend the day with the poor in Tondo, Manila, turning over housing units to former residents of a garbage dump.
Mercado has since come out with more serious allegations, including Binay’s alleged ownership of a P1.2-billion, 350-hectare high-end farm in Rosario, Batangas.
Binay’s camp has claimed that he only leased nine hectares of the farm.
The subcommittee was now crafting a report on whether or not the car park was overpriced, and would release it “as soon as we’re ready,” Pimentel said.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who called for the hearing on the parking building, said he intended to expand the inquiry to cover possible anomalies in five other city buildings: the Makati Science Building, Nursing Building, City Hall I, Ospital ng Makati and Friendship Suites.
But despite the serious accusations of corruption against Binay, Trillanes isn’t in favor of impeaching the Vice President.
Trillanes expressed apprehension the Vice President would influence the outcome of a political process like an impeachment.
“I’m discouraging the congressmen or whoever from pursuing this impeachment because it’s a political process. The Vice President may use all the political means at his disposal to influence the impeachment,” he said in an interview by phone.
A vote of one-third of all House members is needed for an impeachment complaint to proceed to the Senate for trial, while a vote of two-thirds of the 24-member Senate is needed to convict.
Trillanes said the Vice President needed only nine senators to vote for his acquittal. At present, Binay could count on at least seven senators to acquit him, he said.
Trillanes preferred that Binay be prosecuted criminally.
“Legally, the Vice President should end up in jail for stealing billions of pesos at the expense of the people, or the people of Makati,” he said.
President Aquino’s ally, Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, said he was considering filing an impeachment complaint against Binay for betrayal of the public trust.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Binay betrayed public trust by refusing to fully respond to the corruption charges against him.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered an investigation of the alleged anomalies in Makati involving Binay, his family and associates, saying that while the Vice President was immune from suit, he wasn’t immune from investigation.
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said the impeachment of Binay would work in his favor as it would be an opportunity for him to court the sympathy of the Filipino public.
“They should not consider having the Vice President impeached. It might be to his benefit in the long run. Politically, it is a wrong move,” said Cruz in an interview with Church-run Radio Veritas. With a report by Nina P. Calleja